In lung cancer, when it is determined that the tumor(s) cannot be removed by surgery, radiation therapy is often employed. Although doctors have the technology to more precisely control the radiation beam, it is still a very powerful and has the ability to damage the body. Radiation is not good for the body, and is known to be very damaging. Here is what a physician had to say about radiation’s side effects on lung cancer.
The doctor basically said that virtually all patients that can’t be treated with surgery will eventually receive radiation therapy. Some patients who receive surgery also get radiation therapy as a precautionary measure to fight possible metastases (spreading of cancer). The doctor made a lot of subjective statements. He never really gave any statistics regarding the rate of side effects. He said that the radiation therapy is “well tolerated”, that the radiation was “a little energetic”, and that the heart and lung tissues can be “slightly damaged” by radiation. It was notable to me that he consistently made a conscious effort to minimize the possibility of side effects.
I covered the side effects of radiation therapy in another article. They can be serious. The laundry list of possible side effects is:
- lung scarring and other damage
- shortness of breath
- radiation pneumonitis
- thyroid problems & damage
- secondary cancers
The physician said that side effects can take begin almost immediately. What he failed to say is that side effects can also be experienced years after treatment, so it is unpredictable whether or not someone will experience side effects. It’s like gambling.
The doctor says that most of the long term side effects are very unusual, and that they are very rare. I’m not so sure about that. You never know when you will experience side effects. They say that the possibility of cure makes it worth the risk, but judging from the survival statistics (around 20% of lung cancer patients live for 5 years after diagnosis), it makes me think that it is unlikely that you will survive for that long with these types of treatments. I’m going to have to find some statistics for the rate of side effect incidence for patients treated with conventional treatments (i.e., chemotherapy, surgery and radiation).
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